Marijuana hits below the belt A new study published in
Cancer by University of Southern California scientists shows a link between marijuana use and an increased risk of developing testicular cancer. The researchers looked at the self-reported history of recreational drug use in 163 young men diagnosed with testicular cancer and compared it with that of 292 healthy men of the same age and race/ethnicity. Men with a history of using marijuana were two times as likely to have subtypes of testicular cancer called non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumours, which has a somewhat worse prognosis.
Lead researcher Victoria Cortessis, assistant professor of preventive medicine, speculates that the drug may act through the marijuana-regulating endocannabinoid system, which has been shown to be important in the formation of sperm. It was also found that men with a history of cocaine use had a reduced risk of both subtypes of testicular cancer - researchers suspect the drug may kill sperm-producing germ cells. "If this is correct, then 'prevention' would come at a high price," Cortessis says. "Although germ cells cannot develop cancer if they are destroyed, fertility would also be impaired."
A point well made
To needle or not to needle? Scientists say the benefits of acupuncture are better than sham acupuncture or none at all for treatment of chronic pain. This is according to a report in the
Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre analysed data of nearly 18,000 patients from 29 randomised controlled trials in the United States, Britain, Germany, Spain and Sweden. Patients who received acupuncture had lower pain scores for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease) and chronic headaches. The study's authors say: "The difference between true and sham acupuncture is relatively modest, suggesting that factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors to [its] therapeutic effects." Sham acupuncture, as defined in the study, includes needles inserted superficially, non-penetrating needles and deactivated electrical stimulation. The authors conclude that acupuncture is "a reasonable referral option for patients with chronic pain".
Pregnant mums in harm's way
More pregnant women - nearly one in 20 - are prescribed drugs to treat high blood pressure, including some drugs that are not considered safe for mothers or their babies, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal
Hypertension. Lead author Dr Brian Bateman, assistant professor of anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School in the US city of Boston, Massachusetts, says high blood pressure occurs in about 6 per cent to 8 per cent of all pregnancies. The drugs prescribed included angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers, both of which have been shown in studies to cause harmful side effects to the unborn baby. The risks during pregnancy include poor foetus growth, kidney problems and even death of the newborn. Limited information is available about anti-hypertensive drugs for pregnant women and more research is urgently needed, says Bateman.
Sip and spa for a cause
If you have been craving some pampering, October is a good time to indulge at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. The Tickled Pink ManiCURE (HK$350) at its luxurious Mandarin Salon will not only benefit your hands but also the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation. The manicure price includes a HK$100 donation, matched by the hotel, to the charity. You will also get a glass of rosé, a "Life Token" and a bottle of OPI nail varnish. Or if you're just feeling thirsty, the Pink Whisper Cocktail (HK$188) at the hotel's M bar includes the donation and token as well.